How can your retail store deliver a best-in-class customer experience? Learn from the best, that’s how. Global customer agency C Space recently released its report on the best customer experiences of 2018, and retailers dominated the top companies on the list. Nine of the top 25 companies were retailers: Trader Joe’s, L.L. Bean, Nordstrom, Amazon, Costco, REI, Bath & Body Works, Sephora and Aldi.
Why Customer Experience Matters
Just as most of us prefer to do business with people we like, we also prefer to do business with companies we like—that is, companies that create an emotional connection with us. Consumers’ emotional experiences with a business greatly influence how much and how often they spend.
However, C Space notes that when companies survey customers about their experiences, they’re often too literal. For example, a survey might reveal that customers are waiting too long in line without getting more information about the emotional aspect of that experience. How does waiting make the customer feel? Are they annoyed, disrespected, hurt, frustrated?
Emotional Customer Experience
To answer these questions, C Space asked 26,000 U.S. consumers to think of a company that “gets them” and rate that company against 21 emotional cues, including “They notice and appreciate my loyalty” or “They make me feel smart.” The report, which covers more than 1,000 companies in 19 industries, identifies five “emotional cues” of customer experience. These emotional cues are statistically linked to revenue growth and accurately predict whether consumers will recommend a company to others.
5 Emotional Cues your Customers Care About
Here are the five emotional cues C Space identifies, the key to success for each one, and how to achieve it.
Key: Know Who you Are
Is your business trying to be everything to everyone? Stop. By being true to yourself, your business can capture others who share the same values.
Ben & Jerry’s, Nike and Disney are examples of this cue. All three companies have passionate fans—and detractors. They’re not for everyone, nor do they try to be. Instead, they stake out their claim and hold strong to their values. Do the same, target customers who share those values, and you can earn their loyalty.
Key: Make it Worth It
Customers have many choices in retail today. When they choose you, are you appreciative? Show customers that you recognize them. Smile, greet them, remember what they bought last time. In addition to quality products, provide consistent, quality service. Be easy to do business with—Starbucks is a star at this. Offer multiple ways to buy—online, in-store, buy online and pick up in-store. Be helpful and knowledgeable. Make customer service everyone’s job. With risk-free returns, grocery chain Trader Joe’s wins points for ease. Did you know they’ll even open products in the store to let you taste them so you can make a decision?
Key: Be Open
You can’t fake authenticity. Don’t try to be something you’re not just to capture a hot market or demographic. Be authentic, even if it limits your appeal to a niche—or hurts your sales once in a while. Openness is key for outdoor apparel retailer Patagonia. The company is upfront that its mission is “to save our home planet.” To that end it actively encourages customers to buy less and helps them repair their Patagonia clothing so they last longer. Openness is also about honesty. Do you mean what you say? What type of guarantee do you provide? Can customers trust your store? Part of being open is admitting your flaws and acknowledging when you make a mistake. For example, paying attention to online reviews and engaging with customers who have complaints can actually help grow your business.
Key: See it the Customer’s Way
Empathetic businesses understand their customers’ needs and preferences. They put the customer’s needs before their own. How can your retail store be more like “empathy expert” Netflix, constantly offering suggestions of what customers might like? Pay attention to what your customers are interested in (point-of-sale and loyalty software can help you track this). Update your products to match local trends and give your target market what they want. Coca-Cola took this to the next level with its personalized soda bottles. It’s easy to get adversarial with a complaining customer or a long line of grumpy shoppers. Remember, you and your staff are on the customer’s side!
Cue: Emotional Rewards
Key: Make the Customer Feel Good
How do customers want to feel when they do business with your store? “Make me feel smart. Make me feel proud. Make me feel respected. Make me feel like I belong,” customers in the survey say. Can you create a sense of community in your store? How about a sense of discovery? Shoppers love to be the one to tell their friends about your store, the cool product they bought from you or the great bargain they scored. “Feel-good retailer” Costco serves all these needs. Shoppers spend hours in the store for the thrill of discovering new products at great prices. They know they’re saving money and they feel smart and special for doing so. Of course, Costco’s friendly customer service doesn’t hurt, either, nor does knowing they can return any product, any time, for a refund.
One way you don’t want to make customers feel: ripped off. It’s easy to make customers feel cheated, even if you aren’t cheating them. A sale with too many exclusions, a clerk who won’t take a return, or a stock shortage that leaves the shopper empty-handed can all seem like rip-offs. Do whatever it takes to help the customer leave your store feeling good about themselves, and about your business.
Even the smallest retailers can learn from the giants—and when it comes to emotional connections, you even have an edge over them. How will you incorporate these five emotional cues into your store?